Friday, August 29, 2014

Think Tank Theatre opens up for new, surprising collaborations

When the popular Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble announced their end after a 10-year run this summer, fans of their offbeat and influential productions mourned. WFPL arts reporter Erin Keane said at the time, “The end of Le Petomane as a whole is a loss for Louisville’s arts community.”

That was in June. Now, not even three months later, two of their six members have announced their new company, Think Tank Theatre.

Their first production, the love exploration “Ton of Bricks,” won’t premiere until November 13, when it is produced at Walden Theatre as part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival. But Tony Dingman and Kyle Ware, the founders of TTT, want you to come see them this Sunday, August 31, at the Bard’s Town. They’re not performing, however – they just want you to tell them what you think about love. Stories, feelings, theories – all are welcome, and Dingman and Ware plan to use that crowd-sourced material as grist for whatever their show becomes: It could be a romance, or a comedy, or a tragedy, or a combination of all that and more.

As the dissolution of Le Petomane was being planned, Dingman and Ware “kept talking one night after one of these meetings, and talking and talking, and riffing on what possibilities were out there,” says Ware, who also writes for Insider Louisville in addition to working as director of education at Kentucky Shakespeare. “What we would do if we kept on going, what we always thought we could have done with Le Petomane that we never did – and then got to a spot where we just said, ‘We should just do that,’” as Dingman laughs in agreement.

Dingman, whose lanky, bicycle-riding frame provides a classic comedy contrast to Ware’s more compact, professorial appearance, notes that the aspect most exciting to the pair was being able to expand their boundaries, collaborating with anyone else who “wants to play.”

As members of Le Petomane, they found themselves approached often by musicians, dancers, poets and other people whose skills came from outside the usual structure of the theater.

“At the time – well, for most of the life of Le Petomane – it was kind of insular,” says Dingman. “Not that it’s a bad thing! But it was the six ensemble members who worked to create shows. And there were numerous people who wanted to work with us.”

He says, “One thing that came out that was, 'What if we said "yes"?'”

One detail they feel fairly certain about is that only they will stay on as permanent members, with others brought in as needed. It may not always go smoothly, but it also allows for “happy accidents” that add more than they could have expected.

“It’s forcing us to rediscover everything,” Ware says. “Which is great for creativity.”

Their experiences with Le Petomane have taught them that offering a variety of approaches doesn’t always lead to glowing reviews. “Not because they were poorly built, in my opinion, but because they were eclectic,” Dingman says. “Like Kentucky weather,” Ware adds.

The pair wants the public to get involved and have a stake in their shows, which is why they are asking for help in writing their shows, and using social media to reach people. “We’re going to touch it and see what happens” is the phrase Dingman comes up with, prompting a big laugh from Ware.

“Now that I’ve heard that, I kind of like it,” he says. “That’s the T-shirt right there!”

The laughter continues when I offer to use their crowd-sourcing model by including the embarrassed Dingman’s phrase in their story so they can see how the public reacts. “That’s my new favorite phrase,” Ware continues. “You know, that kind of applies. The whole thing’s an experiment to invite people in – touch it, see what happens … You could get burned, it could break, it could be a lovely thing.”

Think Tank Theatre hosts "What About Love? An Open Forum"
Sunday, August 31
The Bard's Town
1801 Bardstown Rd.
Free; 7:30 p.m.

c. 2014 Insider Louisville

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